Children Smoking E-Cigarettes More Likely To Use Tobacco Products


Children who use e-cigarettes are up to three times more likely to use tobacco products in the future, according to a new report on tobacco use released by the World Health Organization (WHO). This is the first time there is new data on electronic nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes that are often marketed to children and adolescents by the tobacco and related industries. 

The world health body recommended that governments implement regulations to stop non-smokers from starting to use them, to prevent renormalization of smoking in the community, and to protect future generations. 

“Nicotine is highly addictive. Electronic nicotine delivery systems are harmful, and must be better regulated,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Where they are not banned, governments should adopt appropriate policies to protect their populations from the harms of electronic nicotine delivery systems, and to prevent their uptake by children, adolescents, and other vulnerable groups.”

The report found that while many countries are making progress in the fight against tobacco, they are not addressing emerging nicotine and tobacco products and failing to regulate them.

Increased adoption of WHO-recommended tobacco control measures

Around 5.3 billion people are now covered by at least one of the WHO-recommended tobacco control measures. This is four times more than the one billion who were covered in 2007, according to the report.

Monitoring tobacco use and preventive measures; protecting people from tobacco smoke; offering help to quit; warning about the dangers of tobacco; enforcing bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and raising taxes on tobacco are the recommended measures. 

Currently 32 countries have banned the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). A further 79 have adopted at least one partial measure to prohibit the use of these products in public places, prohibit their advertising, promotion and sponsorship or require the display of health warnings on packaging. This still leaves 84 countries where they are not regulated or restricted in any way.

New products being marketed

“More than one billion people around the world still smoke,” said Michael Bloomberg, WHO global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases and injuries, and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “And as cigarette sales have fallen, tobacco companies have been aggressively marketing new products – like e-cigarettes and heated-tobacco products – and lobbied governments to limit their regulation. Their goal is simple: to hook another generation on nicotine. We can’t let that happen.”

There are several challenges associated with regulation. “These products are hugely diverse and are evolving rapidly. Some are modifiable by the user so that nicotine concentration and risk levels are difficult to regulate,” said Rüdiger Krech, director of the health promotion department at WHO. “Others are marketed as ‘nicotine-free’ but when tested, are often found to contain the addictive ingredient. Distinguishing the nicotine-containing products from the non-nicotine, or even from some tobacco-containing products, can be almost impossible. This is just one way the industry subverts and undermines tobacco control measures.”

Currently, there are an estimated one billion smokers globally, around 80% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Tobacco is responsible for the death of 8 million people a year, including one million from second-hand smoke.

While the proportion of people using tobacco has declined in most countries, population growth means the total number of people smoking has remained high.



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